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Healthy Sleep: What Is It and Are You Getting It?

By: Ashley Lipman

A person needs enough sleep to maintain optimal health. That’s what studies say. Medical experts claim that proper rest patterns can improve our memory and mood and help us learn better. A healthy slumber can also strengthen our immune system.

You’ll know if you aren’t sleeping well. Your energy is lower, you’ll feel sluggish, and at times, depressed. However, in our busy lives, it’s possible not to notice the signs until they impact our health.
Today, it’s common for most people to get less sleep than they need. Jobs are more demanding, and workers spend longer hours earning a living. We also have lots of entertainment and other pursuits available throughout the day that keep us awake.

We think we can play catch-up during the weekend, but it may not be adequate if we’re very sleep-deprived. 

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation advises adults to get between 7 and 9 hours of slumber every night. Those older than 65 years of age can do with a shorter duration of rest.

However, the amount of sleep we need varies among individuals. There’s no magic number. You may require more or less rest, depending on the level of activity you have in your daily routine. Your genetic makeup is also a determining factor.

Do You Have Quality Sleep?
Quality is as important as quantity. Besides getting the recommended number of hours, it’s essential to have quality, uninterrupted rest during that period.

Research suggests that continuous slumber is critical in supporting our brain and body function. If you’re not resting well, here are some suggestions:

Develop Proper Sleep Habits
A consistent sleep routine is a must to regulate your circadian rhythm. Go to bed and wake up at fixed times every day, including weekends.

Don’t take irregular and long naps in the daytime because it can disrupt your internal clock.

Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
Buy a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow to enhance your slumber and protect your body. Shape wrote in a blog post that stomach sleepers should use the right mattress to support their backs. Ideally, it’s best to replace your bedding every 5 to 8 years.

Make sure that your bedroom is cozy. A dark, quiet, and comfortable space will help you relax. Be sure to adjust the temperature so that it’s not too warm or too cold. 70°F (20°C) is what many people consider ideal.

Plan Your Activities
Exercise regularly, but not close to your bedtime because workouts release hormones such as adrenaline and epinephrine, thus increasing alertness. The regimen also provides physical and mental benefits if done consistently.

Your body and mind need to relax before you slumber. Reading or listening to soothing music will help you feel calm. Studies show that those who take hot baths 90 minutes before turning in enjoy deeper sleep.

Many people report that meditating helps them de-stress and unwind. If you can’t meditate, sit and breathe slowly and deeply for several rounds.

​​Watch What You Eat and Drink
Skip the nightcap. There are indications that alcohol increases the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring.

Although caffeine can enhance your focus and boost your energy during the day, you should avoid consuming it late in the evening. A cup of coffee can stimulate your nervous system and prevent your body from relaxing naturally.

Cut out nicotine completely.

Avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime. If you have a craving for food, choose a light snack instead.

Stop drinking liquids between 1 and 2 hours before you go to bed. You don’t want the urge to urinate to disrupt your rest. It’s best to make it a habit to use the toilet before sleeping.

Take Supplements
Include supplements into your diet, such as melatonin, a vital sleep hormone that informs your brain when it’s time to rest.

Other beneficial additives include Ginkgo Biloba and Valerian. Both herbs help you snooze better.

Seek Medical Advice
Consult your doctor if you still have trouble sleeping after following the above tips. You want to rule out any disorder or health condition such as sleep apnea.

Indicators of Healthy Sleep Patterns
To summarize, once you get the optimal number of quality sleep hours, you should notice that you’ll wake up feeling refreshed every morning. You’ll feel more cheerful and have lots of energy during the day. You’ll also be clear-headed and think better.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.